That optimism should be curtailed.
ESPN’s Ed Werder reports, in regard to Prescott inking his $31.4 million tender by Monday, that “it’s not an indication” a long-term deal is “close.”
Further, Werder was told by a source close to the situation that Dallas feels stuck between a rock and a hard place, pressured to lock down Prescott while simultaneously navigating around potential salary cap-related pitfalls stemming from the coronavirus and estimates of its financial ramifications on the sport in 2020.
“Their problem is the second year, because this salary cap is going to crash unless there’s an intermediate deal,” said the source. “They would have to gut their team to keep him then. So there’s even more incentive for the Cowboys to do a long-term deal with Dak because of the coronavirus and where the cap might be next year.”
Follow the Heavy on Cowboys Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content!
Repercussions of the Tag
The Cowboys are toeing a fine line with Prescott, who, for now, becomes him the NFL’s seventh-highest-paid player in terms of total cash and the highest-paid in base salary, dwarfing 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo ($23.8 million), per Spotrac.com.
This ties up a significant chunk of Dallas’s cap allotment at a time of great uncertainty; the team is projected to lose a league-high $621 million in stadium revenue if the upcoming season is played without fans in the stands. Franchises across the sport are bracing for the inevitability that COVID-19 will impact how much money can be spent on player contracts, and who they should spend it on.
The Cowboys know Prescott holds a fair bit of leverage in ongoing contract talks. If he simply plays the 2020 campaign under the tender, he’ll pocket a guaranteed $31.4 million and begin setting his sights on 2021 unrestricted free agency. If tagged again next offseason, he must be given a 20 percent increase in pay — approximately $37.7 million — per the terms of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Thus, Dallas likely would prefer a long-term deal, allowing them to spread out Prescott’s cap charges across future seasons. Then again, the major roadblock in discussions centers around length, with Dak seeking a four-year commitment and the club wanting a five-year pact.
The worst-case scenario for Prescott differs greatly from that of the Cowboys, who risk plunging into cap hell — and, as Werder noted, upending their roster — if they aren’t careful.
Where Things Stand
Same as where they stood in May. Or April. Or January. Or last September. Prescott is stumping for a contract on his terms, and Dallas is unwilling to cave. Yet.
The sides have until July 15 to reach an accord or Prescott will suit up on the tag, which contractually obligates the two-time Pro Bowl signal-caller to report to training camp, preventing a summer-long holdout a la Ezekiel Elliott.
ESPN reported last month the Cowboys floated an offer to Dak’s camp worth roughly $34 million annually, with upwards of $110 million guaranteed. A subsequent report indicated that the parties have been relatively silent in recent weeks, though there is mutual optimism a deal will be reached by the deadline.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL